At the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors, the Chelsea gallery of artist Alex Grey, Erykah Badu hosted an intimate listening review of her new album New Amerykah (Part One: 4th World War). The reception and listening party were packed with an eclectic and incredibly diverse mixture of fans, press and industry types that ranged from Williamsburg hipsters and longstanding fans of neo-soul and hip-hop to president of Universal Music Group’s Motown Records, Sylvia Rhone.

Surrounded by Grey’s psychedelic works of oil on linen, and timed purposefully with the lunar eclipse, the listening preview and following question and answer session often focused on the concept of ‘change’. Fittingly her album, which is laden with deep booming bass and broken beats, is easy Erykah’s heaviest and most hip-hip sounding release to date. Consisting of ten listed tracks and the hidden track “Honey” (which was released as the album’s first video single), New Amerykah Part One comes across as a very personal release.

According to Erykah, the album is “my interpretation of what is going on in the world right now, from my perspective.” Contrary to this self-centered description, Badu’s vocals are often found beneath layers of complex rhythms both deep and dark. Even at first listen the resulting mixture is as synergistic as it is arresting. It’s the kind of music that only gets better with repeated play.

At the end of her introduction, Erykah asked the audience to sit back and “feel the vibe.” There is no doubt that everyone did.

New Amerykah (Part One: 4th World War) will be released on February 26 on Erykah’s birthday.

Sylvia Rhone

Alex Grey


This was a different sort of gig for me. I traded my dirty jeans for a pair of trim wool slacks and the light gathering aperture of my 50mm f/1.4 for a light producing on-camera flash. Having been sick for weeks, not having to swim for my life in a sea of indie-rock fans was a nice change.


I shot the party with the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 and Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 on the Canon EOS-1D Mark III. With nothing but a low level of ambient art gallery lighting, the resulting exposures were thanks to a Canon 580EX II speedlighting mounted on camera. I also used my trusty Demb Flip-It combined with the white ceiling and walls to help me bounce and otherwise diffuse the light coming from the flashgun. None of the photos are the result of direct flash.


Unlike my normal concert work, the lighting for this set was heavily influenced by on camera flash. The Demb Flip-It provides excellent fill without the harsh shadows and blown highlights normally associated with on-camera flash.


I shot the entire set at ISO 400 and 1/160 at f/4. The output of my 580EX II was controlled on camera with flash exposure compensation and spot metering.

End Notes

For those of you who aren’t already fans of Erykah Badu, I would highly recommend that you give her new album a listen, it’s great.

  1. Beautiful shots. Love the warm glow.

  2. chris

    Thanks Gabi. I use a warm white balance to counteract that harsh “I shot with flash” look.